Another guest post by Sharon’s husband and family mixologist, Anthony Damelio.
“You have to try something!” Carlos told me. I had already enjoyed a couple of his homemade drinks—all of which were exceptional—so I trusted him implicitly.
“Do you like tequila and grapefruit?” he asked.
“Of course! I’ve been experimenting with that myself, but I haven’t hit the sweet spot yet.”
“Well, let me make this for you.”
Carlos went away in search of his ingredients, and I watched him closely as he mixed my drink in an antique crystal mixing glass. He is a creative man who is proud of his tools, his ingredients, and his craft.
Returning with the finished product, Carlos set it down reverently in front of me and waited for me to take a sip. It was fantastic! A delicious combination of tart, fresh grapefruit, the bite of good tequila, and some sweet-spicy notes I couldn’t quite place.
“What’s that flavor?” I wondered aloud as I tried to identify the third ingredient.
“Canela. Cinnamon simple syrup.”
“Ahh, yes, there it is!” I said, as I took another sip.
“I kept searching for the missing ingredient to bring grapefruit and tequila together, and I finally found it,” Carlos told me as he explained his creative process.
He certainly did.
Like the rest of the bartenders at El Antiguo Hijos de Borinquen in Old San Juan, Carlos can mix a mean cocktail. That magical place, my favorite cocktail bar, introduced Sharon and me to many of their original recipes—all mesmerizing concoctions with creative flavor combinations but straightforward ingredients.
This Palomnela, as I’ve dubbed it, is really Carlos’s brainchild, which I attempted to recreate after we returned from our vacation. Serving it to our friends, I’ve been surprised that even the most ardent tequila haters seem to love this drink as much as I do. The name ‘Palomnela’ is an elision of two words in Spanish: paloma and canela. A paloma cocktail is a mix of grapefruit soda and tequila, while canela means “cinnamon.” I think this drink, The Palomnela, captures the essence of the paloma drink while adding a spicy, cinnamon punch.
So, ¡salud! I hope you enjoy it.
- 2 ½ ounces tequila reposado (doesn’t have to be fancy—something like Jimador, Gran Centenario, Herradura—just make sure it’s 100% agave)
- 1 ½ ounces freshly-squeezed grapefruit juice
- ½ ounce cinnamon simple syrup
- Grapefruit peel
- Piece of cinnamon stick (used to make the simple syrup)
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup water
- 5 (about 3 inches in length) cinnamon sticks
- Combine the tequila, grapefruit juice, and cinnamon simple syrup in a cocktail shaker. Add a small handful of ice and shake vigorously for about 10 seconds. Serve over fresh ice in a rocks glass and garnish with a grapefruit peel and a piece of the cinnamon stick used to make the cinnamon simple syrup.
- For the simple syrup: Combine ingredients in a saucepan over medium-low. Bring to a boil and stir until the sugar is dissolved, and then lower the heat to low. Let the cinnamon steep for at least 30 minutes.
- Stored in a jar in your refrigerator, this syrup will keep for up to three months.